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PM action plan: Single environment Act, birth certificate for citizenship, jobs clause in FTAs

In preparing the action plan, the Prime Minister has also asked departments and ministries to borrow from successes achieved by others.

Written by Anisha Dutta | New Delhi |
Updated: October 19, 2021 1:10:11 pm
The Prime Minister has also asked the Niti Aayog to target poverty eradication within five years. (File Photo)

From linking birth certificates to citizenship to pushing for jobs while negotiating trade pacts, from promoting a ‘family database design’ to drafting a single environment Act that subsumes all other laws in the sector — the Centre has prepared a comprehensive 60-point action plan following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s marathon meeting with secretaries of all departments and ministries on September 18.

According to the action plan document accessed by The Indian Express, “There is no proof of citizenship in India. Citizenship may be linked to birth certificate through technology and mainstreamed.”

Senior government officials said the “actionable inputs” have been sent to all secretaries. Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba separately wrote to the secretaries on September 20 asking them to take “immediate action” on the Prime Minister’s directions and ensure their “time-bound implementation”.

The 60-point action is targeted at specific ministries and departments, but a closer analysis suggests they fall under broadly three buckets: leveraging IT and technology for governance, improving business climate, and upgrading the civil services.

For instance, the action points to attract business include: doing away completely with certain permissions, reducing the cost of starting a business in 10 sectors and bring it on a par with Vietnam and Indonesia, automatic notification of clearances, single-point access to all government services, incentives to states for timely land acquisition and forest clearances, one comprehensive Environment Management Act that subsumes various laws in the sector, mentoring platform for start-ups and skilling programmes for emerging sectors. These are mostly directed at the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, and the Niti Aayog.

Another important area that finds emphasis is use of new technology, data, and IT to improve governance. From streamlining disbursement of scholarships to bridging digital divide for underprivileged students by developing indigenous tablets and laptops and digitisation of land records, there are several actionable inputs for the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. In fact, in his letter, Cabinet Secretary Gauba told the Secretaries that every effort must be made to fully leverage the power of technology. “All schemes/ programmes of Government of India should therefore have a digital component,” he noted.

In his letter to the secretaries, Gauba also asked ministries to speed up spending, particularly capital expenditure. Asking them to implement the Budget announcements in right earnest, he said, “Capital expenditure needs to be speeded up to meet the target for the current financial year. The progress in many ministries at the end of the first quarter of the financial year is not satisfactory.”

On administrative reform, the Prime Minister has stressed on capacity building – training of officers on various aspects of infrastructure in both the Centre and states, infusion of expertise and exposure to latest technologies for higher civil services, performance-based working, clear and specific targets for ministries and departments just like that for public sector undertakings, institutional mechanisms for addressing issues of states given their limited capacities and restructuring of departments through government process re-engineering every 10 years.

In preparing the action plan, the Prime Minister has also asked departments and ministries to borrow from successes achieved by others. For instance, the Department of Sports has been asked to adopt the Odisha model for promotion of sports at a national level, and the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances has been asked to organise all government circulars like the Reserve Bank of India’s Master Circulars. “States/ municipal bodies have undertaken many good initiatives. National Urban Digital Mission is being developed to bring all such initiatives in one place. Further, systems like Integrated Command and Control Centre may be made available by industry as a service so that smaller towns may also take advantage,” the action plan states.

The Prime Minister has also asked the Niti Aayog to target poverty eradication within five years. Further, it also asks the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to ab initio plan residential facilities for service staff engaged in construction to prevent formation of slums. The plan also recommends using Aadhaar for “bringing together beneficiary oriented schemes of different ministries” and also adds that a ‘family database design’ has been developed by the ministry of social justice and empowerment and “may be promoted like Aadhaar.” It also states all government data should be made accessible to all ministries.

“Under the guidance of Cabinet Secretary, task forces were created on ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. These Inter-ministerial groups may be institutionalised,” the document said in the action points for the external affairs ministry.

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